30 second summary:
- 60% of consumers have shopped online more often since COVID-19.
- Make your local SEO strategy a top priority for small retailers and those with multiple locations.
- Buyers browse more often and make more purchases even though they are of lesser value.
- Local retailers should focus on creating and consuming online in-store experiences.
- Understanding your local audience and optimizing at the hyper-local level are key.
- Jim Yu, Founder and CEO of BrightEdge, shares five great ways your business can use local search engine optimization to dominate searches and turn them into sales this holiday season.
A shorter than usual shopping season, last mile shipping uncertainties, and ongoing health and safety concerns are just a few of the factors driving wild changes in consumer behavior in the lead up to the 2020 holiday season. While the coronavirus pandemic is proving to be permanent, it was impossible for us to predict or imagine the circumstances we are in now. Local businesses that are already on the edge may find this shopping season more competitive than usual, which makes your local SEO strategy a top priority.
This Christmas season, marketers need to keep their finger on the pulse of their market and their opportunities more than ever. Activating as much relevant consumer data as possible in real time will be key.
1. Offer payment options, COVID precautions, and other important conversion information in the front and center
We know what the top issues for buyers this season are:
Consumers surf, research and shop across online channels. They are more value-conscious than before and want to be sure that their privacy and data are protected when shopping online.
Keep frequently asked questions one step ahead by updating your website, social profiles, local listings, and landing pages with answers. These are extremely important tweaks – so much so that Google, Yelp, and other listing platforms are highlighting this information for consumers on company profiles. If consumers can’t find what they’re looking for in your listing, they just move on to the next one.
2. Really get to know your audience this holiday season
Planning campaigns based on historical data just won’t cut back this year. Agile marketers and smart automation will come together to deliver the news and experiences necessary for conversion in emerging markets.
Nielsen published consumer profiles in late October based on research and surveys conducted at various time periods during the COVID pandemic. It’s impossible to predict who you’ll find at your door (or in your online shopping cart) this holiday season, but expect each of these consumer types to be in the mix:
You can see the very different motivations and styles of shopping this year. Those who have escaped a direct impact from COVID can compensate for the luxuries they foregoed this year – trips that have been canceled or large purchases suspended due to the initial uncertainty. At the other end of the spectrum, you see consumers who are both financially and physically affected, with less money to spend, and also restricted by lockdown measures.
Understanding your macro market and your micro opportunities at the individual web visitor level is key to capitalizing on your opportunities to make the transition this holiday season.
3. Feed browsing behavior with high quality, engaging content that compliments search over the holiday season
In our most recent study, BrightEdge mentioned that 60% of consumers have been shopping online more often since COVID-19. It is behavior that 73% of these plans want to continue after the pandemic. Buyers browse more often and make more purchases even though they are of lesser value.
During this holiday season, it is important that the content offered is personalized and engaging. that it is an accurate reflection of their needs, intentions, interests, and behaviors in the moment. Activate your search results with dynamic content optimizations to keep up with changing consumer behavior.
Think like your COVID-tired customer – what’s available for free this year? Nielsen points out in his latest article on the types of consumers retailers can expect this year, “From a necessity that no longer fits budget to a product that has been more difficult to get in stores this year, the definition of one Gift ‘will look very different this year.’ Help customers understand how your product / service provides comfort, entertainment, safety, or otherwise is a need for that special someone in their life.
- Use all available tools to expand your search results and make them more interesting.
- Upload new photos and videos often.
- Use Google Posts to highlight promotions, in-store and virtual events, products and services, and more.
- Make sure your on-page SEO is up to date and that the pages have the correct schema markup.
- Work closely with your paid search team to ensure that your organic and paid strategies are complementary, not cannibalized.
- Keep it interesting and get more traction across the channels by changing your content types.
4. Focus on creating experiences
Consumers have spent significantly more time watching and reading the news, engaging in hobbies, and watching TV, movies, and games at home. They are hungry for experiences to fill at least part of the void left by closed restaurants, closed concert halls, canceled events and the inability to travel.
Even outside of the impact of the pandemic, customer experience should outperform the product and price as the main differentiator of the brand. No matter how much thought or planning you put into the company, customers have experience with your company. It’s a worthwhile place to focus your efforts on the eve of this holiday shopping season.
YouGov’s July 2020 survey results show consumers have been engrossed with product demonstrations, pop-up shops, and installations. Some of these experiences translate naturally online – such as product demonstration videos. Events that you previously held in the store can be used as Facebook Lives or omnichannel promotions.
Traditionally, give local buyers opportunities to get involved, e.g. B. QR codes in the window to direct them to an online experience when in-store shopping is not an option (may be preferable for them).
Regardless of the format and channel, think about the experience you’re curating for your audience. How do you show them that you are invested in their satisfaction and happiness? How do you facilitate the transition from one content or channel to the next? How do you capture and keep their interest?
Don’t think of your customer interactions as touchpoints, but in the context of your entire shopping journey. Grow My Store is a tool from Google that rates any retail website for an online or physical store and returns recommendations to improve the customer experience.
5. Highlight your local relevance
Current Yahoo! Small business research has found that the vast majority of shoppers (75% of respondents) want to buy from and support small businesses. Another poll, this one by Alignable, found that 32% of respondents said they would spend more money on locally owned businesses in the fourth quarter of 2020.
How do you get customers and the search engines you rely on understand your local relevance to get you ahead of them?
- Make sure all locations are claimed, reviewed and optimized.
- Localize your content. Engage the audience with photos and videos on site. Relate to local attractions, get involved in local events and organizations, and build links within the local community.
- Do local keyword research and optimize your listings, landing pages and websites.
- Make it clear what fulfillment options you are offering to local customers: BOPIS, roadside collection and contactless delivery.
- Make the most of your local reviews with close monitoring, quick response, and highlighting of positive reviews across other channels.
Use Google’s Local Opportunity Finder to quickly assess your local presence and get tips and advice on how to optimize your GMB.
If you’re looking to keep shoppers near Amazon and away from big box stores this year, focus on meeting customers where they are looking for products and services like yours: Local Search. Keep them away from reading and surfing, not to find information that should be readily available. Proactively avoid concerns about payment methods, COVID precautions, special hours and more by keeping your website and local listings up to date.
This promises to be an unusual shopping season for many. Local Essential is important for small retailers and local SEO for multiple locations is vital for businesses. Since you cannot rely on previous experience, it is important to use your search results.
Customers tell you what it takes to win their business. Do you hear?
Jim Yu is the founder and CEO of BrightEdge, the leading platform for enterprise SEO and content performance.